Backpacking California: Mountain, Foothill, Coastal, & Desert Adventures in the Golden State
by Author varies by trail (Wilderness Press)
© 2008 Author varies by trail/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.
The view was beautiful, but the weather did not cooperate. Too cold in October, but I will go back next summer to enjoy this great hike.
This trip gets 5 stars, but ONLY if you set aside a day to explore the Miter Basin lakes and peaks!!! At the north side of Rock Creek Lake, on the east side of the creek, there is a trail (not on the maps) that intersects the main trail. Take this trail northward. It eventually crosses over to the west side of the creek, past beautiful meadows, through awesome peaks, and into the Miter Basin. With some scrambling, you can venture up to Sky Blue Lake, Primrose Lake, or others. Leave your packs back at camp and spend a full day here! Temps at this time of year were around 100 in Lone Pine, but at the altitude of the trial we had perfect temps in the 60's daytime and frost on the ground at night. Our trip: Day 1 - Planned to hike to High Lake, but only made it to Cottonwood Lake #2 because of a storm. Days 2&3 - up and over New Army Pass and down to camp for 2 days at the Rock Creek Lake and our side trip into Miter Basin. Rock Creek Lake was beautiful, but if I could do it over again, I'd probably try Soldier Lakes instead. Space is limited at Rock Creek and it was crowded. Mosquitos were insane but not a real problem if you're equipped with good repellant. If you do camp down here, be prepared for an extra 1 mile of fairly steep uphill climb to get you back on the main trail. Day 4 - Onward to Chicken Spring Lake where we spent the night. I wasn't impressed with this lake. Evidence of illegal wood fires was everywhere along with trash and limbs hacked off of live trees for firewood - very disappointing! It does provide a place to stop if you want to shorten your hike and spend an extra day out, but don't go here for beauty or solitude. Day 5 - lots of switchbacks down, and a very sandy hike back to horseshoe meadow. The Cottonwood Lakes and New Army Pass were by far the best part of this trip. All-in-all a beautiful trip, but as I said you MUST visit Miter Basin!
Foolish to attempt this in November. No snow, but it was absolutely freezing at 12,000 ft at night. The trail is easygoing to begin with, and we had hoped to bag Langley, but it was just too cold to continue. Best attempt this in summertime (we tried the follow late May and awoke to white out snow storm). Be sure to spend night at trailhead to acclimate to altitude. Still, what we saw halfway through was beautiful and pristine and remote (since no one else in their right mind was backpacking here at these times).
This was my first foray into the High Sierra and a fine one it was!
Two huge advantages to this area in August. First, the weather was perfect. Simply magnificent every step of teh way! Second, I didn't use repellant (nor did anyone else in the 4 person group) and I didn't get a single mosquito bite!
The trails were immaculate. The lower areas had sand which is a bummer going uphill, but it was very smooth and well maintained.
The 2nd 1/2 of this trip isn't nearly as spectacular as the first. Chicken Spring Lake is nice, but isn't even close to the Cottonwood area.
Spend a day or more day-hiking. Miter Basin is truly spectacular although nothing is growing there. Highly recommended!
Rangers spent a lot of time talking about bears, but I didn't even see any bear sign the entire time. I'm sure they are around, but by August, they may be lower where there is more food.
WATCH OUT FOR THE ALTITUDE!!! This can't be stressed enough. Spend a day or two at elevation prior to starting or plan VERY short days until you are used to it. One of the four of us was pretty much debilitated by the altitude.
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